Truisms from Helen Trueblood

Bulbs can be planted when the soil cools to around 56 degrees. They can be planted as long as the ground is not frozen. Bulbs may freeze if not rooted before the ground freezes deep. They can be planted three times the depth of the bulb. Deeper digging should be done for they make long roots down below the bulb. It is better to dig the whole area to avoid having water-holding holes. They enjoy water, but not standing in it. Good drainage is essential for the health of the bulb. Soil testing is important. The better the soil, the better the bulbs respond to any amendments. If the soil needs amendments, put them on before digging to plant your bulbs. Any fertilizers should be well below the bulb and mixed into the soil. The fertilizer can burn the bulb and the roots. Mulch is required to keep the blooms clean, hold moisture, and keep the weeds down. Remember to remove foliage six weeks from blooming.

Helen with her namesake daffodil
'Trueblood' 3Y-R. PHOTO: Tom Stettner, 2011
Fall Leaves - They're a Good Thing. Every fall for as long as I can remember, Helen Trueblood has told IDS members not to "Leaf it at the Curb" and not to remove fallen leaves from our properties at all. Leaves are the "brown", which when combined with "greens", create a living compost and soil conditioner. Even if one doesn't have a compost pile, leaves simply mowed with the lawn mower create an organic mulch to put over daffodils or any flower bed or shrub border, keeping weeds down and providing earthworms with a cool damp place higher in the soil where they can scamper and play, leaving their worm highways for air and their ordure for soil nourishment. And even for people who have no compost pile and no flower beds (gasp! are there really such people?) leaves mowed and left in place on the grass will work their way down into the soil and will do much to condition the soil for that green stuff to flourish without depending on chemical fertilizers.
Planting: Dig a hole, reserving the topsoil to be placed under the bulb. The hole needs to be dug deeper than the planting depth. Chop the bottom of the hole with the spade, especially for heavy clay soils. Add soil amenities: sand, a handful of fine pine bark, not the coarse chips (Fine Pine Bark Mulch can be found at Home Depot; look for Royal Trophy 302. Beware; there are two kinds. You want the pulverized, fine grade), a handful of alfalfa meal, less than 1 Tablespoon each of green sand, rock phosphate, and 6-24-24 fertilizer, plus some good soil and/or organic matter. Chop, chop, chop, mix, mix, mix. Add the reserved topsoil but do not mix it into the hole, just add it. It serves as the barrier between all the additives and the bulb. Place a good handful of perlite or sand under each bulb to be planted in that hole. Set the bulb on its butt with AN ID TAG IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HOLE. Carefully back fill so you don't knock the bulb(s) over; then tamp the soil down with your foot. Map your plantings!